I don’t want to say them, and yet they have to be said.
I know, from stories shared by friends, that the fallout might be devastating. It would be so easy to stay silent, just leave things as they are.
But my parents raised me to speak the truth.
So I do.
“Dad, I’m gay.”
Silence…followed by silence…finally broken by his long exhale. Then more silence. My law school professors have spent the better half of the semester teaching me how to present evidence and argue my position, but nothing has prepared me for this –
I am 12 again, shuffling into his basement study, an unfinished tetrahedron in my hands.
“I can’t finish my project.”
He looks up from the thick, black binders covering his desk, his eyes taking a moment to focus on me instead of the numbers he must analyze for work. “What are you still doing up?” His voice is hoarse, having not spoken to anyone for the last 5 hours. He disappeared after dinner and hadn’t surfaced since.
“Can you help me with this?”
I have grossly underestimated how long it will take to thread colored string through a 3D wooden triangle. I’ve had the project for a week, but just started it tonight.
“When is it due?”
There’s the look. It’s isn’t the first time I’ve seen it, nor the last.
The dot matrix springs to life, filling the silence. My dad exhales, then motions to the edge of the desk. “Just leave it there.”
“But I have to hand it – “
“Goodnight,” he says with a finality I know better than to argue with. Then he’s back in his world of numbers and I climb the stairs to bed.
My dad can be intimidating, in that intense, FOB way. Like when we tackle word problems after dinner and his fist pounds the dining room table to underscore his point.
“It’s. Just. English.” Pound. Pound. Pound. “Read it again. What time will they meet?”
The words are a blur through my tears. I go over the problem again, but no matter how many times I read it, I still don’t get how the train going 35mph will pass the train heading towards it at 67mph, let alone when. Still, I hazard a guess.
He shakes his head, exhales slowly. Then there’s the look.
“We’ll try again tomorrow.”
I’m still waiting for him to say something…anything. Still expecting the look, but he hasn’t looked at me. Not since I said my three words.
Finally, his eyes meet mine, and his look is…bemused?
“I already know.”
“Are you sure?”
“Is it Lori?”
A long exhale, followed by silence. A gentle hand placed on my shoulder as he stands to leave.
“I love you.”
He gives me a quick squeeze before disappearing to his basement study.
I lay my head down, pressing a cheek into the cool wood surface. I close my eyes, replaying the gift he has just given me…remembering the one he left ten years before.
Thank you, Dad.